Milwaukee among Wisconsin’s least healthy counties, Ozaukee ranks as healthiest

Milwaukee County ranks among the least healthy in the state and Ozaukee County ranks as the healthiest in the state, according to the annual County Health Rankings released today by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).

The rankings, available at, allow counties to see how well they are doing on 29 factors that influence health, including smoking, high school graduation rates, employment, physical inactivity and access to healthy foods.

Milwaukee County ranks 71st of the state’s 72 counties, ahead of only Menominee County. 
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Milwaukee Health Commissioner Bevan K. Baker said “social and economic factors” play a major role in “determining the health of a person, a city, or a nation.”

“The Institute of Medicine defined “public health” as what we do collectively, as a society, to create the conditions in which people can be healthy,” said Barrett. “Those conditions include not only access to health care and healthy individual behaviors, but also social, economic, and physical environmental factors. The health of Milwaukee, and Wisconsin, depends in large part on what we do, as a society, collectively, to address all of these factors.”

“The chronic stress of living in poverty doesn’t just reduce people’s ability to engage in healthy behaviors,” said Baker. “It also directly affects people’s health through chronic increases in stress hormones in the body which make women more likely to deliver premature babies and lead directly to high blood pressure and many other chronic diseases over a lifetime.

Milwaukee County ranks in the bottom quarter for health outcomes (71), health factors (71), health behaviors (70), clinical care (54), social and economic factors (71) and physical environment (64). 

Kenosha and Racine counties also rank near the bottom in the overall rankings, at 64th and 65th, respectively.

The five healthiest counties in Wisconsin are Ozaukee at number one, followed by Kewaunee, Portage, Taylor and Door. Washington County and Waukesha County also rank in the top 20, at 8th and 16th, respectively.  

“The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s vision for a culture of health is one where everyone has the opportunity to be healthy,” said Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, RWJF president and CEO. “The County Health Rankings are a starting point for change, helping communities come together, identify priorities, and create solutions that will help all in our diverse society live healthier lives, now and for generations to come.”

“The County Health Rankings show us how health is influenced by our everyday surroundings—where we live, learn, work, and play,” said Bridget Catlin, PhD, MHSA, director of the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps. “The County Health Rankings often provide the spark for businesses, community planners, policymakers, public health, parents, and others to work together for better health.”

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